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Pinellas Park, Florida: First Home for Retired Assemblies of God Ministers

Residents at the Pinellas Park Home, circa 1950.

This Week in AG History —November 20, 1955

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 19 November 2020

Many are familiar with Maranatha Village Retirement Community in Springfield, Missouri, established in 1973. However, this was not the first time the Assemblies of God responded to the need to provide care for its retired ministers and missionaries.

In the early years of the Pentecostal movement, a strong belief in the imminent return of Christ sent ministers and missionaries into difficult places in the United States and around the world with the Pentecostal gospel message. Many of these ministers lived entirely by faith, with only enough to meet their daily needs. Their lives were spent for God with little thought to laying up materials things for their old age. Even for those who were in a position to prepare for retirement, their conviction that they were living in the last days led many of them to enter their later years with little life savings, investments, or death benefit insurance.

As early as 1933, the General Council recognized the need to provide assistance for aging ministers and widows of ministers who died without insurance or savings. A committee on pensions for retired ministers was formed and reported recommendations back to the 1935 General Council in session, which included the creation of a fellowship fund for retired ministers and a voluntary death benefit program. The retired ministers fund would be supported by donations and earnings from Gospel Publishing House and would be available to “needy ministers or their widows who have engaged in an active and approved ministry in the General Council fellowship for a period of 10 or more years.”

In 1946 it was recommended to the General Presbytery that the Assemblies of God establish a home for aged ministers who “have spent their strength and lives in the gospel ministry and now face their declining years with no place to go or without anyone to care for them.” This home became a reality in 1948 when the Pinellas Park Hotel was purchased. The hotel had 29 rooms, each equipped with two twin beds, and two furnished parlors in the warm and pleasant climate near St. Petersburg, Florida. Former General Secretary-Treasurer J. R. Evans, age 79, and his wife became the first residents.

An article, “Meet This Happy Family,” published in the Nov. 20, 1955, Pentecostal Evangel, introduced readers to some of the residents of the Pinellas Park Home. “They are pioneers of Pentecost, representing the first generation of full gospel ministers. They were mature men and women in the days when the Spirit was outpoured in Topeka, Los Angeles, and all around the world. They represent the evangelists who first brought the message of Acts 2:4 to the cities of America, the pastors who stuck it out through thick and thin to establish Pentecostal churches, the first missionaries our struggling Assemblies sponsored on the field.”

Residents at Pinellas Park were retired from the professional duties of the ministry, but not from ministry itself. They taught Sunday School in local churches, led Bible studies, provided for one another’s needs, and provided much of the maintenance of the home. On any given day, one could find missionaries who had once opened up nations for the Pentecostal message passing out tracts and witnessing in the community of St. Petersburg.

It was not long before a larger facility was needed and construction began on a new facility in Lakeland, Florida, adjacent to the campus of Southeastern Bible College (now Southeastern University). Bethany Retirement Home was dedicated in 1960 and served the needs of retired ministers and laypeople until 1972, when Southeastern needed the property for expansion.

Forty acres was purchased next to Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, for the construction of Maranatha Manor (now Maranatha Village Retirement Community). Residents, who all their lives had been on the move for the gospel, packed up and moved one more time. College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri, provided private air transportation from Lakeland to Springfield, and the new residents of Maranatha Village arrived in May 1973.

The Pentecostal Evangel article, “Meet This Happy Family!” reminded readers that Sunday, Nov. 20, had been designated “Aged Ministers Assistance Sunday,” a time when Assemblies of God churches were asked to remember the aged ministers, missionaries, and their widows with a special offering.

Mothers and fathers of the faith taught many the way of salvation and Spirit-filled living, knowing that in their time of need, God would not fail them. Today that need remains. Aged Ministers Assistance (AMA) continues to provide a monthly stipend for those in need and Maranatha Village is now a 100-acre home for both ministers and laypeople living in Christian community.

Read the article “Meet This Happy Family!” on page 6 of the Nov. 20, 1955, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “This is God’s Will for You” by E.M. Wadsworth

• “Some Day We’ll Understand” by J.J. Krimmer

• “It Brings Miracles” by Zelma Argue

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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The Second General Council and the Story Behind the Assemblies of God’s Commitment to Missions

Stone Church, Chicago, Illinois

This Week in AG History — November 14, 1914

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 12 November 2020

One hundred and six years ago, hundreds of Assemblies of God pastors, evangelists, and missionaries traveled to Chicago to attend the second General Council. Held Nov. 15-29, 1914, at the Stone Church, this meeting’s stated purpose was “to lay a firm foundation upon which to build the Assemblies of God.”

The Assemblies of God had been organized just seven months earlier in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The young Fellowship grew quickly as existing independent ministers joined its ranks. They appreciated the vision for fellowship, accountability, and structure, while maintaining the autonomy of the local congregation. This growth caused founding chairman E. N. Bell to call for a second meeting, in order to make urgent decisions about the future of the new organization.

The Stone Church, one of the largest Pentecostal congregations in America, could easily accommodate the expected 1,000 participants. Delegates to the meeting made several important structural changes. They decided to move the headquarters from Findlay, Ohio, to St. Louis, Missouri, which would provide a more central location in a larger city. Delegates voted to expand the number of executive presbyters from 12 to 16, making the leadership more representative of the constituency. New leadership was also elected and Gospel Publishing House was authorized to expand its operations.

But the most far-reaching decision at the second General Council was one that was not on the original agenda. Assemblies of God leaders planned to take a missionary offering at the conclusion of the General Council. They had written articles encouraging people to bring money to give to missions. But the pastor of the Stone Church decided that the final offering should instead go to his own church, to help defray expenses related to hosting the council. Assemblies of God leaders, although frustrated with this turn of events, did not oppose the pastor’s request. Instead, they decided to issue a strongly-worded resolution in which they committed the Assemblies of God, from that point forward, to the cause of world evangelization. L. C. Hall drafted the resolution, which read:

“As a Council, we hereby express our gratitude to God for His great blessing upon the Movement in the past. We are grateful to Him for the results attending this forward Movement and we commit ourselves and the Movement to Him for the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen. We pledge our hearty cooperation, prayers, and help to this end.”

This iconic resolution, unanimously adopted by the delegates, has been widely quoted as illustrating how support for missions is part of the DNA of the Assemblies of God.

There is more to the story. In the spring of 1915, something shocking was discovered about the Stone Church pastor, R. L. Erickson, who had refused to let the offering go to missions. The May 29, 1915, issue of the Weekly Evangel alerted readers that Erickson had been removed from the ministerial list due to moral failure. In a lengthy article, E. N. Bell detailed how Erickson’s “greed” was evidence of poor moral character, which also manifested itself in other harmful ways in his life and ministry. In Bell’s estimation, Erickson’s greed led him to take the offering meant for missions, which led to the adoption of the strong statement in support of missions. What Satan meant for harm, Bell wrote, God could turn into good. And 106 years later, the Assemblies of God remains committed to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.”

Read the Nov. 14, 1914, issue of the Christian Evangel, which published the minutes from the first General Council and encouraged readers to attend the second General Council.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Work in Africa and Egypt,” by Frank M. Moll

• “The Unanswered Prayer,” by Harry Morse

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Also read E. N. Bell’s article, “The Great Outlook,” in which he details the events surrounding the adoption of the resolution regarding missions, on pages 3 and 4 of the May 29, 1915, issue of the Weekly Evangel.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Joseph Wannenmacher’s Healing: How a Gifted Violinist became an Assemblies of God Pioneer

This Week in AG History — October 29, 1949

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 29 October 2020

As a young man, Joseph P. Wannenmacher (1895-1989) was a rising star in the Milwaukee musical scene. But a miraculous healing in a small storefront mission in 1917 forever changed his life, and he went on to become a well-loved Assemblies of God pioneer pastor. He shared his powerful testimony in the Oct. 29, 1949, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Like many other Milwaukee residents, Wannenmacher was an immigrant. He was born in Buzias, Hungary, to a family that was ethnically German and Hungarian. The Wannenmachers moved to Milwaukee in 1903, but his father was unable to adapt to American ways so they returned to Hungary after 10 months. In 1909, they returned to Milwaukee to stay.

From an early age, music helped define Joseph Wannenmacher’s life. In Hungary, he was surrounded by some of the nation’s best musicians and became a noted violinist. In Milwaukee, at age 18 he organized and conducted the Hungarian Royal Gypsy Orchestra (named after a similar group in his homeland), which performed at many of the region’s top entertainment venues.

Wannenmacher seemed to have it all. He could afford fashionable clothing, a gold watch, and diamond-studded jewelry. But underneath his successful veneer, Wannenmacher was haunted by his own human frailties.

Wannenmacher knew that he was dying a slow, painful death. His flesh would swell, develop blisters, and rot. Doctors diagnosed his condition as bone consumption. His sister had already died of the same malady. Anger boiled up in Wannenmacher as he grappled with the unfairness of life. He developed a sharp temper and, try as he might, he could not find peace.

Wannenmacher was raised in a devout Catholic home, so he turned to his faith to help him deal with his physical pain and bitterness. He frequently attended church and offered penance, but these practices did not seem to help.

He then turned to Luther’s German translation of the Bible, which someone had given to him, and began reading it voraciously. In its pages he discovered things he had never heard before. He read about Christ’s second coming, salvation by faith, and Christ’s power to heal. Perhaps most importantly, he learned that God is love. Up until that point, he had conceived of God as “Someone away up there with a long beard and a big club just waiting to beat me up.” But then, at age 18, he began to discover the gospel for himself.

In the midst of this spiritual awakening, Wannenmacher’s health was weakening. He could barely hold his violin bow in his hand, and the pain was almost unbearable. Then one morning in 1917 he heard about a group of German-speaking Pentecostals who prayed for the sick. The next service was scheduled for that afternoon, and Wannenmacher made a beeline for it. He wrote, “It was a dilapidated place, but the sweet presence of God was there.”

The small band of believers had been fasting and praying that God would send someone who was in need of salvation and healing. The service was unlike anything Wannenmacher had ever seen before. He watched the people get on their knees and cry out to God. Their outpouring of genuine faith moved Joseph’s heart.

The pastor, Hugo Ulrich, preached that sinners could be saved simply by trusting in Christ. It seemed too good to be true, Wannenmacher thought. Faith then came into his heart, and he started laughing for joy. The pastor thought Wannenmacher was mocking him, but Wannenmacher didn’t care. At the end of the service, Wannenmacher came forward to the altar and experienced a powerful encounter with God.

Wannenmacher described his time at the altar: “the power of God just struck me and shook for fully half an hour…the more His Spirit operated through my bones, through my muscles, through my being, the hotter I became. The more God’s power surged through me, the more I perspired. The Lord simply operated on that poor, diseased body of mine.”

He described this experience as being in the “operating room” of God. Later in the service, as he knelt at the altar rail in silent prayer, it seemed like heaven came down. He recalled, “As I waited there in God’s presence … [God’s] hands went down my body from head to toe, and every spirit of infirmity had to go. I got up, and I was a new man.”

A few days later, Wannenmacher was baptized in the Holy Spirit. He soon launched into gospel ministry and shared his testimony wherever he went. He played his violin and sang gospel songs during the lunch hour at the Harley Davidson plant, where he sometimes worked. He testified about his healing in hospitals, street corners, and other places. Everywhere he went, he prayed with people, and many accepted Christ and were healed. Wannenmacher’s family jokingly referred to his violin as the “healing violin,” because numerous people experienced healing as he played songs such as “The Heavenly City.”

In 1921 he married Helen Innes and started Full Gospel Church in Milwaukee. He went on to found six additional daughter churches in the area. He also served as the first superintendent of the Hungarian Branch of the Assemblies of God, which was organized in 1944 for Hungarian immigrants to America. After pastoring Full Gospel Church (renamed Calvary Assembly of God in 1944) for 39 years, he retired in 1960.

Throughout his ministry, Wannenmacher emphasized the importance of the Word of God. In his Pentecostal Evangel article, Wannenmacher compared reading the Bible to the mastery of music. “You have to practice and play music over and over again before you have mastered it,” he wrote, “and you have to apply yourself to those wonderful teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, too, in order to make them yours.”

While Joseph Wannenmacher went to be with the Lord in 1989, his legacy lives on in the churches he founded and in the people whose lives he touched. Calvary AG is continuing to reach people in the Milwaukee area and was renamed Honey Creek Church in 2015. Joseph and Helen’s three children, John, Philip, and Lois (Graber), were involved in Assemblies of God ministries. Philip served as pastor of Central Assembly of God (Springfield, Missouri) from 1970 to 1995. Philip’s daughter, Beth Carroll, serves as director of Human Resources at the Assemblies of God National Leadership and Resource Center. On the floor just above Beth’s office, Joseph’s “healing violin” is on display in the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center museum.

Joseph Wannenmacher’s story reminds believers that history never really disappears. People, events, and themes from the past tend to resurface in the present, but it often takes discernment to see them. God radically transformed Joseph Wannenmacher’s heart and healed his body, and the world has never been the same.

Read Joseph P. Wannenmacher’s article, “When God’s Love Came In,” on pages 2-3 and 11-13 of the Oct. 29, 1949, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Life’s Supreme Objective,” by D. M. Carlson

• “Ministering to the Needy,” by J. H. Boyce

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Cordas C. Burnett: Pioneer Assemblies of God Educator

Cordas C. Burnett, Wesley R. Steelberg, and J. Roswell Flower, circa 1950s.

This Week in AG History — October 21, 1951

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 2 October 2020

Cordas C. Burnett (1917-1975) served the Assemblies of God as an evangelist and pastor; however, he is most remembered for his passion for the education of the ministers and constituents of the Movement.

After graduating from high school in Granite City, Illinois, Burnett felt that he needed more education to serve God and his church. He began preaching while still in high school and served as a pastor in Carrollton, Illinois, while only 18 years old. Knowing his skills needed honing, he enrolled at Central Bible Institute (CBI) in Springfield, Missouri, in 1936 and sought his ordination with the Illinois District of the Assemblies of God in 1937.

After completing a year at CBI, Burnett returned to the pastorate in Illinois and took classes at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, finally completing his bachelor’s degree cum laude at DePaul University in Chicago. He later did graduate work at Washington University in St. Louis.

While pastoring in Chicago, Burnett received an invitation to return to CBI in 1948 as an instructor and later as vice president from 1954 to 1958. In 1959, he was appointed to serve as secretary of education for the Assemblies of God. When the position of president at Bethany Bible College in Santa Cruz became open, Burnett and his wife, Dorothy, received the call to move to California.

Along with his work in the pastorate and educational institutions, Burnett also served the larger evangelical movement in influential leadership positions, including 25 years as field secretary for the American Bible Society and 17 years as convention chairman of the National Association of Evangelicals.

When the Assemblies of God created its first solely post-graduate institution, the Assemblies of God Graduate School (now Assemblies of God Theological Seminary) in Springfield, Missouri, the executive presbytery called on Burnett in 1972 to return to Springfield to provide leadership for the new school as executive vice president. He provided a guiding influence to this work until his death in 1975 at age 58.

In 1951, during his tenure as an instructor at CBI, Burnett addressed the General Council held in Atlanta, Georgia. He shared his concern that young Pentecostals, in their academic pursuits, were facing questions arising from theological modernism, including higher criticism, theological liberalism, and neo-orthodoxy. His address, titled “Four Foundations for our Faith,” was published in the Oct. 21, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. Burnett told the leaders of the Assemblies of God that “young people have gone out from our assemblies to attend some institutions of higher learning and have come back dazed and uncertain as to where they stand and what they believe. We must have an answer for them.”

Burnett proposed that the answer these students needed was “found in a living Pentecostal faith which, undergirded by four tremendous foundation stones, stands tonight for all to see.” A vibrant Pentecostal testimony, he asserted, provides an alternative to atheism, theological liberalism, and neo-orthodoxy, which were prevalent in theological training schools through the writings of thinkers like Bertrand Russell, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Julian Huxley.

Addressing the preachers, pastors, and educators of the Assemblies of God, Burnett insisted that Pentecostal young people must be grounded with sound arguments in these four areas: the inviolability of the human soul (man is more than just a physical combination of chemicals and that death is not the end of life); the infallibility of the Bible (a refusal to make the Bible a simple fetish, but to reasonably defend it as the authoritative rule of faith and conduct); the irrefutability of Christ’s deity (the logical reasonableness of Jesus’ claim to divinity); and the incontestability of His resurrection (a defense of the literal bodily resurrection of Christ). Burnett believed that Pentecostal churches must teach these four points to their students in order to prepare them with an answer to the questions of the age.

Burnett’s commitment to these theological foundations led General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman to say, upon Burnett’s death, that “through his efforts many significant steps of advancement have been made, both innovative and substantial in meeting the educational needs of the many ministers who have attended Assemblies of God educational institutions.”

Today his name is memorialized at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary through the Cordas C. Burnett Center for Biblical Preaching and the Burnett Library, which provides more than 130,000 scholarly resources for its students.

Read C. C. Burnett’s address, “Four Foundations for our Faith,” on page 3 of the Oct. 21, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Making True Disciples” by Robert W. Cummings
• “Thousands – then Twelve” by Donald Gee
• “Has the Cuban Revival Been a ‘Mushroom’ Revival?” by James W. Nicholson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Maria Woodworth-Etter and the Salt Lake City Revival of 1916

This Week in AG History — October 14, 1916

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 15 October 2020

Few early Pentecostal evangelists were as widely known as Maria Woodworth-Etter (1844-1924). She traversed North America, holding services in large churches, auditoriums, and tents. Reports of revivals, including souls saved and bodies healed, regularly followed her ministry. People from a variety of backgrounds, including many non-Pentecostals, crowded into her meetings. Many heard about her reputation and sought to be healed.

Woodworth-Etter held an evangelistic campaign in Salt Lake City, Utah, in October 1916. The Pentecostal Evangel issue dated Oct. 7 and 14 promoted the campaign, which began on Oct. 6 and which was expected to continue three weeks or longer. Campaign planners rented an auditorium that seated 1,100, expecting to draw attendees from as far away as Denver, San Francisco, Portland, and Los Angeles.

The article noted that the Assembly of God mission in Salt Lake City was small. It had been opened just two years earlier, in August 1914. Several Assemblies of God evangelists, including Samuel and Sadie Finley, Robert Lowe, and Philip and Catherine Stokeley, helped develop the fledgling flock. Their hearts were drawn toward establishing a ministry of compassion. According to an Oct. 24, 1914, Pentecostal Evangel article, they desired to start a “Rescue Home for fallen girls.” They were unaware of the existence of any similar ministry in the city.

It was with the help of these local leaders in Salt Lake City that Woodworth-Etter began her 1916 campaign. Several weeks into the campaign, Woodworth-Etter’s associate August Feick reported that “there is much interest over a good part of this city.” According to Feick, “Many people are under deep conviction, and people surrender daily to God and get saved. Others again get healed and baptized with the Spirit.” The meetings were held in an auditorium that was a regular venue for boxing matches. Feick wrote, “On the same mat where prize fights are staged — stained with blood — sinners weep their way through to God, and saints receive their baptism.”

Feick reported a deeply spiritual atmosphere, noting that some participants could sense the glory of God present in the auditorium. Others saw a “peculiar mist” in the building, and several had visions of Jesus and angels. Bodily healings convinced many of the reality of the Pentecostal message. Feick explained that these healings were “proof” of the gospel that could not be denied.

These early meetings, over 100 years ago, helped to lay the foundation for the 15 Assemblies of God churches that today share the gospel in Salt Lake City.

Read reports of Maria Woodworth-Etter’s evangelistic 1916 campaign in Salt Lake City in the following issues of the Pentecostal Evangel:

October 7-14, 1916 (page 13).

November 4, 1916 (page 15).

Also featured in these issues:

• “Putting the Enemy to Flight,” by Stanley H. Frodsham

• “What it Costs to be a Missionary,” by Jessie Hertslet

And many more!

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Charles Elmo Robinson: Early Assemblies of God Lawyer, Minister, and Author

This Week in AG History — October 09, 1926

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 08 October 2020

Charles Elmo Robinson (1867-1954) is one of the unsung leaders of the early Pentecostal movement. He was a minister, a lawyer, and for 22 years (1925-1947) the associate editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Born in Adrian, Michigan, and raised near Lamar, Missouri, Charles Elmo Robinson was converted at age 17 and began preaching in local Methodist churches. He attended law school in Washington, D.C., and passed the bar when he was 21. He practiced law with his father in Kansas City for several years before going into full-time gospel ministry. He married Mollie Cole in 1889, and they had several children.

Robinson’s wife contracted tuberculosis in 1899 and was not expected to live. After Robinson read testimonies of healing in the Leaves of Healing publication, he convinced her to go to Zion, Illinois, where she received healing through the ministry of John Alexander Dowie. The next year, Robinson decided to move with his family to Zion, where he was ordained by Dowie in 1902. In about 1905 his first wife died, and then he married Daisy Woolery in 1907, who also had been a member of Dowie’s church.

Robinson received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and became an Assemblies of God minister, pastoring a number of churches in Arkansas. He was ordained by the Arkansas District Council of the Assemblies of God in 1922.

He was serving as secretary-treasurer of the Arkansas district when he accepted a call to move to Springfield, Missouri, to become associate editor of the Pentecostal Evangel. In addition to his duties in the Evangel office, he served as a consulting attorney at the Assemblies of God national offices.

Robinson was highly respected for his sweet humility and simple faith. He loved people and was a friend to the poor and a support to the weak. His coworkers at the Gospel Publishing House called him “Daddy” Robinson. He seldom shouted, but he had a very close relationship with Christ and would speak to God in prayer as if he was speaking to a friend across the desk. One friend said, “You could not be around ‘Daddy’ Robinson for five minutes without knowing he was a real Christian.”

His prolific writings, in addition to articles in the Pentecostal Evangel and other publications, included books on Christian living, children’s books, tracts, etc.

He wrote a at least 17 books, of which Praying to Change Things is probably the best known. He also wrote Broken Ties, God and His Bible, God’s Mysteries Made Known, His Glorious Church, Guided Hearts, The Governor’s Choice (a historical romance), Lifted Shadows, The Marital Relation, A Modern Pentecost, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, The Winning of Aliene, and Victory! Significantly, evangelical publisher Zondervan published several of his books in the 1930s and 1940s, at a time when it was unusual for major evangelical publishers to promote Pentecostal authors.

His children’s books, such as The Adventures of Keo the Colt, have likewise had a wide circulation. Other children’s books he wrote include: The Adventures of Blacky the Wasp, The Adventures of Hush-Wing the Owl, The Adventures of Sally Cottontail, The Gnat’s Lifeboat and Other Stories, The Hilly Billy, and The Not-Ashamed Club.

He also wrote a number of gospel tracts, including “Are You Sick?” “How God Heals,” “Is Pentecost a New Religion?” etc. In addition, he wrote several articles in Sunday School literature and Christ’s Ambassadors Herald under the pen name of “Rajoma.”

After his retirement as associate editor in 1947, Robinson continued in Bible-teaching ministry in local Assemblies in various parts of the nation until ill health kept him from traveling. His wife, known as “Mother” Robinson, had a successful ministry as a prison chaplain and evangelist. She had a “near-death” experience where she felt the Lord speak to her to begin ministering to prisoners. In about 1931 she began holding services for inmates in the county jail in Springfield, Missouri. She was assisted by students from Central Bible Institute. She also ministered to prisoners at the Missouri State Prison in Jefferson City for many years before retiring. Charles Elmo Robinson and his wife are buried in Eastlawn Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri.

Robinson wrote a series of articles in the Pentecostal Evangel called “Homely Things from a Pastor’s Diary” in which he shared personal aspects of his life in a diary format. Most of these columns he wrote for the Pentecostal Evangel were later published in another book he wrote called A Pastor’s Diary (1937). In these pastor’s sketches, Robinson gives a picture of what it is like to be a pastor. Daily activities for a pastor can include counseling, personal prayer, prayer for the sick, and answers to prayer. A pastor may also deal with personal struggles as well as conflicts in general.

Read “Homely Things from a Pastor’s Diary” on page 6 of the Oct. 9, 1926, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Resurrection of the Roman Empire,” by D. M. Panton

• “Division Among Them,” by Robert A. Brown

• “Missionary Value of Gospel Literature,” by William M. Faux

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel
archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Chi Alpha: Birthed with a Vision for Student-Led Spiritual Renewal

This Week in AG History — October 2, 1955

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 01 October 2020

College campuses birthed many of the world’s great Christian revival and reform movements. This fact was not lost on J. Calvin Holsinger, who pioneered Chi Alpha, the Assemblies of God ministry to college students.

In a Pentecostal Evangel article published 65 years ago, Holsinger recounted how Martin Luther, a professor at Wittenberg University, helped to spark the 16th century Protestant Reformation. He also noted that the great Methodist revival of the 18th and 19th centuries began when John Wesley, an Oxford University professor, gathered students for prayer and Bible study. The students in this “Holy Club,” as it came to be called, helped to spread revival across England and, ultimately, around the world.

Even the 20th century Pentecostal movement, Holsinger observed, had origins on a college campus. When students at Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, gathered in 1900 to study the Book of Acts, they experienced a profound spiritual outpouring that helped to birth the worldwide Pentecostal movement.

Why should the Assemblies of God support ministries to college students? To Holsinger, the answer to this question was obvious: history shows that students led many of the greatest revival movements. He asked, “It has been true in the past; why not today?”

Holsinger, at the time, was a professor at Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri, and served as campus adviser for the National Christ’s Ambassadors Department, which was the youth organization of the Assemblies of God. He also led a college ministry at Southwest Missouri State College (now Missouri State University), one of a handful of AG campus ministries at non-Assemblies of God schools around the nation.

In 1953, Holsinger began developing plans for a national AG campus ministry at non-Assemblies of God schools. He developed manuals that defined the new organization’s purpose and mission, and he conceived a name — Chi Alpha. In 1955, the fledgling national campus ministry featured three services to college students: a Campus Ambassador magazine offered free to all Assemblies of God college students; local chapters on college campuses; and college chaplains.

By 2020, Chi Alpha had grown to 296 active chapters on campuses in the United States, served by over 1,500 affiliated staff. Chi Alpha is now the fourth-largest evangelical campus organization in the United States, after Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Read the article by J. Calvin Holsinger, “A Campus Witness,” on pages 17 and 20 of the Oct. 2, 1955, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Witnessing of the Acts 1:8 Variety,” by Robert L. Brandt

• “Witch Doctor Saved!” by John L. Franklin.

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel
archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Esther Harvey: Pioneer Assemblies of God Missionary to India

This Week in AG History — September 17, 1938

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 17 September 2020

Esther Bragg Harvey (1891-1986) served Jesus Christ and the people of India for 48 years before retiring as an Assemblies of God missionary in 1961. During her first nine years on the field she buried three children and her young husband. Yet when she passed away at age 95, hundreds of Indian children called her “Mama.”

Esther Bragg was not raised in a Christian home; yet at the age of 12 she witnessed the peace her grandfather experienced, singing a hymn as he passed from the earth. The young girl determined to find the God of her grandfather. When she asked about going to church her father forbade her to “get religion.” Bragg would sneak out of the house to attend church, often finding herself locked out of the house on her return. Her father finally told her she must choose between leaving the church or leaving her home. Heartbroken at the thought of leaving her mother, Bragg turned to God in prayer. The Lord gave her a vision of himself carrying His cross. She saw that her cross was much smaller than His and asked the Lord to forgive her and help her to carry whatever cross He laid on her back. Her father soon relented.

In her senior year of high school, Bragg became very ill. Pentecostal believers from a local mission prayed for her and she was healed. She began to attend Pentecostal services and in 1911 enrolled in a short-term Bible school in Norwalk, Ohio, where she met J. Roswell and Alice Flower. The couple led her into an experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and Harvey soon felt that God was leading her to mission work in India.

In obedience, Bragg set sail for India arriving in December 1913. Just a few months after her arrival, word came from a mission in Nawabganj that some American missionaries had to leave suddenly and left a 27-year-old former British soldier, James Harvey, alone to carry on the work. He had no money and no supplies and was in desperate need, traveling from village to village without even a pair of shoes. Bragg felt that she could be helpful and responded in answer to the call for help.

Unbeknownst to the other, both Esther Bragg and James Harvey wrote in their journals that they felt the Lord had brought them together. Soon “together” became the word that defined them, as they were married later that year (1914). Together they received some of the first credentials with the newly formed Assemblies of God, and together they traveled — holding meetings, helping others, encouraging workers, discipling new Christians, and building a school for boys. With joy they discovered that “together” would soon include another little life.

But their dreams were crushed and together they buried their first baby. Another new life promised hope, but a second small grave was dug next to the first. When a third pregnancy brought promise, Esther found herself also gripped with fear. However, God blessed them with a strong and healthy baby girl. A baby boy followed soon after but was soon very sickly and weak. Esther prayed, “Lord, I cannot and I will not give him up. I must keep him.” In her prayer, she was reminded of the commitment she made before she left for India: “I put it all on the altar — the things I know and the things I don’t know.” She realized losing children was one of the things she “didn’t know” and she had already laid them on the altar before they had even been born. Soon the heartbroken parents had three little graves near their mission house. Together James and Esther continued their work.

After bearing four babies in eight years, and burying three of them, the Harvey’s felt they had born well what had been laid on them. Then, in 1922, James became gravely ill. Esther nursed him for a month, while carrying on the school and mission work and caring for their 3-year-old daughter. In her exhaustion, she prayed for God to heal James quickly so she could get some rest. She felt the work was too great for her to carry alone and she could not go on waiting for James to get better. After two days and nights without sleep caring for her husband, Esther physically collapsed when she realized James had slipped away from the bonds of earth.

In her grief and weakness, Harvey fell into a deep depression. She could not pray and despaired that she had failed God in her short 29 years of life. But when she found herself too weak to do any praying on her own, others stepped in to pray for her. Soon she felt her strength return. A friend brought the young widow and her child into her home for rest. The presence of the Lord drew near and she felt resurrection life bring her back from the brink. Previously, she had leaned on her husband for strength, but now the single mother learned to trust the Lord’s strength to be sufficient to help her lead the school her husband had begun in Sharannagar.

Over the next 27 years, Esther established a church and oversaw the James Harvey Memorial School, building a missionary bungalow, sleeping quarters for workers, school buildings, and a dormitory for the orphan boys. In the Sept. 17, 1938, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, the editors published an SOS letter from Harvey detailing the destruction of the mission from flooding. They were in a critical place due to collapsing buildings, deadly cobras being washed up into their sleeping areas, and no money to buy food or help with rebuilding. Harvey wrote to the American Assemblies of God church members that, “we are in a desperate situation with not one cent of money to help ourselves or anyone else.” The editors encouraged the Evangel readers to give to “one of our largest mission stations in North India.”

God and the Assemblies of God responded to the need and the James Harvey Secondary School continues to this day in 2020.

After her retirement, Harvey traveled to American churches to share the needs of India. In her book, The Faithfulness of God, she looked back on her life and wrote, “I have had to go through many things, one sorrow after another, but I always found He giveth grace. When we are called to pass through the waters, He is there to hold us up.” She died at age 95, trusting in the God she began seeking at age 12. Even though she buried so many of her own children, her tombstone at Greenlawn Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri, calls her “Mama ji” – the name she was given by the children of northern India.

Read Esther Harvey’s request for help, “Calamity Strikes Sharannagar Mission,” on page 6 of the Sept. 17, 1938, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “For Jonathan’s Sake” by Carrie Judd Montgomery

• “Not By…But By” by F.M. Bellsmith

• “Are We Blind Also” by John L. Franklin

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel
archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Dr. Alexander Vazakas: Early Greek-American Pentecostal, Philosopher, Linguist

This Week in AG History — September 2, 1962

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 03 September 2020

Alexander Vazakas (1873-1965) began life in the Ottoman Empire, where his family suffered persecution on account of their evangelical faith. In 1902 he immigrated to America, where he became a linguist and philosopher. During the last years of his life, he served as a professor at Evangel College (now Evangel University) in Springfield, Missouri, and became well-known for melding his sharp mind with a passion for working with young people.

Vazakas played many roles during his life — persecuted religious minority, immigrant, academic, husband. But the common thread that connected these seemingly disparate roles was his deep Christian faith. His remarkable story was published in the Sept. 2, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Born into privilege, Vazakas was raised in a suburb of Thessalonica, in what is now Greece. His father was a practicing physician and rubbed shoulders with important people from around the world.

Everything changed when his father began to read a New Testament given to him by the British Consul. At the time, it was illegal to own a Bible. However, Vazakas’ father read the New Testament voraciously and ended up accepting Christ as his Savior. He wanted to share the good news of the gospel with others, so he invited his patients to his home, where he would read Scripture to them.

Greek Orthodox Church leaders heard about the elder Vazakas’ home Bible studies and were incensed. They viewed Vazakas’ activities as a threat to their religious authority. The Greek Orthodox leaders, who had a close relationship with the government, had Vazakas arrested. After several years of persecution, which included time in and out of prison, he was attacked by bandits and killed.

Alexander Vazakas was only 8 years old when his father died. He consoled himself by reading the book for which his father was willing to die. At first, reading the Bible only seemed to make things worse. “Tortured by feelings of wretchedness and unworthiness,” the Pentecostal Evangel article recounted, Vazakas “began to beat his head against the stones of a wall.” He wished to die. Then the extent to which Christ loved him began to dawn on the teenager. He surrendered his life to Christ, and he would never be the same.

The young convert shared his Christian faith wherever he went. Vazakas’ testimony was so powerful that even merchants and the occasional Orthodox priest or monk would gather and listen to him. In the 1890s, while sharing his testimony, “he found himself unable to speak except as the Holy Spirit gave utterance.” He began speaking in a language that he did not learn — an experience that he reckoned to be similar to what he read about in the Bible.

Vazakas was a brilliant young man. By age 12 he could speak six languages — Greek, Russian, German, French, Spanish, and Bulgarian. As a teenager, he worked as a language tutor. When he immigrated to the United States in 1902, he immediately enrolled at New York University, where he earned his B.A. (1904). He went on to earn additional degrees at Union Theological Seminary (B.D., 1906), Columbia University (M.A., 1911), and the University of Chicago (Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion and Humanities, 1927). His doctoral dissertation explored Greek language usage in the first 15 chapters of the Book of Acts. Between earning degrees, he also served as international secretary for the Y.M.C.A. for France and Greece.

The Greek academic taught for 27 years at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, where he served as head of the department of modern languages. After retiring, he taught for short periods at three Christian colleges — Bethany College (a Lutheran school in Lindsborg, Kansas), Kansas City College and Bible School (affiliated with the Church of God [Holiness]), and the Holiness Bible Institute (Florida). The degree to which he emphasized his Pentecostal testimony while at these non-Pentecostal schools is unknown.

Finally, in 1958, Vazakas moved to Springfield, Missouri, where he taught Philosophy and Greek at Evangel College. The 1962 Pentecostal Evangel article noted that “the flame ignited in his heart by the Holy Spirit in the 1890s is still burning brightly.” Vazakas continued teaching at Evangel until his death in 1965 at the age of 91.

What can we learn from the life of Alexander Vazakas? Early American Pentecostals came from remarkably diverse backgrounds. Many were immigrants, and some had their own Pentecostal experiences prior to the revivals at Topeka (1901) and Azusa Street (1906-1909) in Los Angeles, which are frequently viewed as the beginning of the Pentecostal movement. Although Vazakas was not a credentialed minister, he nevertheless spent his life in active ministry and impacted countless people with his gospel witness. Furthermore, Vazakas’ impressive academic achievements run counter to the common assumption that early Pentecostals were anti-intellectual. And Vazakas’ stamina — the fact that he taught until his death at age 91 — shows that elderly Spirit-empowered believers still have much to offer to younger generations.

One of Vazakas’ students at Evangel was a young man named George O. Wood. Wood, former general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, still recalls Vazakas’ classes and quotes him in sermons from time to time. Never underestimate the long-ranging impact of a substantive and anointed witness.

Read the article, “The Pentecostal Professor from Thessalonica,” on pages 6-7 of the Sept. 2, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Chapel at the Devil’s Pit,” by Don Argue

• “From Thorns to Diadems,” by Anna Berg

• “Blessed Brokenness,” by D. H. McDowell

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Lottie Riekehof and Assemblies of God Ministries to the Deaf

This Week in AG History — July 19, 1941

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 27 August 2020

Lottie Riekehof (1920-2020) was an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, author, and a pioneer in the field of sign language interpreting. She is also remembered for other ministry roles she filled in her almost 100 years of life.

Lottie Louise Riekehof was born in Germany on Aug. 13, 1920. She and her family emigrated to northern New Jersey in 1923 and settled in the town of Elizabeth.

In about 1945 she started working at Calvary Gospel Church in Washington, D.C., as the overseer of a home for Christian women and also assisted the church as a musician. She began learning ASL, a few signs a week, from a deaf woman she met at Calvary Church. She attended Gallaudet College in 1947-1948 and took ASL courses from Dr. Elizabeth Peet, who was considered one of the foremost experts on sign language at that time. This enabled Riekehof to become an interpreter and interpreter educator.

Riekehof earned a B.A. degree in 1951 at Central Bible College (CBC) in Springfield, Missouri, and served as dean of women for 21 years. During this time, she founded the CBC deaf program and trained both deaf college students and interpreters. She received an M.A. and Ph.D. from New York University, where she was engaged in teaching and research at the New York University Center for Research and Training in Deafness.

In 1970 she became dean of women and professor of deaf studies at Gallaudet College. She continued as dean of women at Gallaudet until the college abolished that position in 1974. She became the new coordinator for interpreter training for the American Sign Language program at Gallaudet and later served as department chair until her retirement in 1990.

Riekehof knew that resources for learning sign language were limited, and this led her to write her first book in 1961, called American Sign Language. This book was revised in 1963 with a new title, Talk to the Deaf. Starting in 1978, it was revised again and called The Joy of Signing. Countless hours were spent illustrating and designing the book so that sign language illustrations could help people learn to sign. The book includes a wide range of vocabulary, diagrams, the history of signing, and how to produce signs, etc. That book has sold over two million copies and is still in print. A video version, which includes nine hours of footage, was also produced. Supplemental instruction is also found in two Joy of Signing puzzle books she helped to create.

Much in demand as a seminar speaker and interpreter, Lottie Riekehof conducted workshops on sign language and deaf interpreting in various places in the U.S. as well as in Canada, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and other places. She was also selected as interpreter for special occasion in Washington, D.C., such as President Gerald Ford (in the oval office), Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, Mrs. Richard Nixon, and President Ronald Reagan (at his inauguration).

Riekehof was a long-time resident of Arlington, Virginia. She worked for many years with Linda Martin, an Assemblies of God pastor who is deaf. She and Linda were founding ministers for the Potomac Deaf Church at Arlington Assembly of God in Arlington, Virginia. Linda is the adoptive mother of 29 deaf children adopted from many countries. These children and now grandchildren all considered Lottie Riekehof as their grandmother. Lottie also was a member of Arlington Assembly of God for over 50 years. She served as an organist and pianist and also as a deacon. She passed away on Aug. 6, 2020, just one week short of her 100th birthday.

Riekehof wrote an inspiring report in the Evangel which highlighted Assemblies of God deaf camps in Augusta, Kansas, and Hartford City, Indiana. She described a typical day at camp that included everything from devotions (led by counselors trained in the use of sign language), chapel services, and educational classes to Christian living courses, crafts, and recreation.

The evening worship included “singing” using sign language, with personal testimonies also given in sign language. One lady who attended the camp in Indiana testified, “I learned here that I must be born again!” A woman from Kansas wanted to attend both the Kansas and Indiana camps because, as she put it, “I was afraid I would grow cold again.”

Read “Salvation for all the Camp” on pages 12-13 of the Aug. 29, 1954, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Receive Ye the Holy Ghost,” by J. Roswell Flower

• “Revival in Chile,” by Mrs. John C. Jackson

• “Joshua’s Last Campaign,” by E. S. Williams

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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